Nevada State legislative Government Affairs Committee chair Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, says he thinks the proposed public lands takeover measure, Assembly bill 408, will not go anywhere in this session of the legislature.
He made the comments in his weekly conference call with constituents last week along with Sen. James Oscarson and Assemblyman John Ellison.
AB 408 has been championed by Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy and his supporters.
Called the Nevadans Resources Rights bill by Las Vegas Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore, who introduced it, the Legislative Counsel Bureau said it was unconstitutional, and Goicoechea commented he thought it was a poorly written bill in the first place.
Ellison said it was a bill that could have created a lot of problems for ranchers around the state, and he thought some amendments might be made, but they would have to be done by April 10 which Sen. Oscarson said is the last day any bills can be heard in the legislature unless they are exempted to a fiscal committee.
“The problem for ranchers, Ellison explained, “was the bill was written that if you had a fire, drought, flood, anything, and you were taken off the range for four years, after the four years, the bill would allow the land to come up for public auction. First of all, it is unconstitutional, and second, you could not do that because the Forest Service or BLM could take you off because of drought or anything. The bill just wouldn’t work.”
Oscarson said the bill would “require each county to set tax rates for minerals and everything else that was going on if that property were in the hands of the counties. I heard from multiple counties who said they do not have the staff or the process to even to begin to do that. You would have to have a whole staff of people doing that only.”
He said estimates ranged around $230 million for counties to do that kind of tax assessments.
Ellison and Oscarson said they were initially in favor of AB 408, “but when it came out of committee and all the language, it was a whole different ball game from what we thought.”
Goicoechea agreed. “I had a long talk with Amman Bundy, and the intent of the bill was great, but the bill was horrible. They just didn’t get it put together. It also flew in the face of Nevada’s water law.”
Other critics of the bill said the measure, “attempts to give an all access pass to companies to use and abuse our public lands opening the door to the destruction of important wildlife habitat and ruining our hunting and fishing economy. This bill will have a devastating effect on Nevada’s economy.”